Gaming is an integral part of Japanese culture, with some of the biggest studios and well-loved franchises originating from the country. From Super Mario to Street Fighter, Japan is home to generation-defining games.
When it comes to esports, the fighting game community (FGC) in Japan is like no other. Some of the most iconic esports moments of all time have been created by Japanese players, and the country is increasingly posing stiffer competition to major nations like China and the US.
Apex Legends’ popularity in the country inspired TSM to expand to Japan last year, and other organisations, including Tier One, are also taking note of the country’s potential. Japanese organisations like SCARZ and ZETA Division have let their success do the talking and have made Japan’s presence felt on the global stage.
Fnatic has become one of the latest organisations to invest in Japan’s esports scene after acquiring a Rainbow Six Siege team, which is set to compete in Rainbow Six’s Japan League 2022.
In an interview with Esports Insider, Daniel Cao, Head of Operations for Fnatic Asia, broke down why the organisation wants to expand into the unique Japanese market. He said that awareness of esports has grown rapidly in Japan over the past few years, and market growth has reflected that.
“Japan has a long history of gaming, especially in the fighting game world,” Cao explained. “Combined with Tokyo’s famous street culture, it is the ideal place to collaborate with talented designers and artists to create crossover products that will appeal to esports fans worldwide.”
Japan’s geographical location is also ideal because it is close to other countries that are deeply invested in esports, including China, South Korea, and the Philippines, making events and bootcamps ideal. Japanese esports viewership is slated to rise 281 percent from 2018 to 2024, per Statista — untapped potential that Fnatic says it wants to tap into.
Cao claimed Japan’s esports industry will increase in value by 250 percent between 2019 and 2023. In its funding round announcement, Fnatic said more than 6.9 million people attended esports events in Japan in 2020, up 42 percent from the previous year.
Japanese government devises plan for esports expansion
The Government of Japan has announced plans to boost the economy through a major esports expansion, according to The Japan Times.
The government is set to team up with the private sector to improve regional economies, targeting benefits worth ¥285 billion (£2.15 billion) by 2025.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will work with companies and legal experts to develop guidelines for promoting Japan’s esports industry. The country has an impressively-sized video game market and the ministry is looking to increase large-scale esports events in the nation.
The guidelines will also deal with legal issues related to game developers, such as intellectual property rights. Moreover, the ministry expects a rise in economic growth to come via advertising revenues and corporate equipment supplies.
Konami and Bandai Namco are already building esports facilities in Japan. The former started to build a twelve-story esports complex in 2019, while the latter is yet to announce the opening of its esports arcade.
Countries such as United States, China, and Europe are notable players when it comes to large-scale esports events and Japan’s esports expansion plans have been devised to keep up with such nations.